Victorious at the Valley
My second away trip of the season took me into London to The Valley. Leeds United have not really had such a good record on the road so far this season and the weather looked set to make things even more difficult. On top of this, injuries to key players meant Brian McDermott was forced into giving some of the forgotten men a chance to stake their claims. Danny Pugh came in to replace the injured Stephen Warnock and an injury just before kick off saw the impressive youngster Mowatt pulled out in place of war veteran Michael Brown.
I travelled down from Bedford and got the train into St Pancras International. A short tube trip to London Bridge and I was soon to meet the familiar sighting of our traveling support. We have an awesome away support and it’s because of this that I forget I’m on my own. The train to Charlton was eventful and one that would bring mixed emotions.
Word got out on the train that there was a Pitch Inspection at 1.30pm and there was a real possibility that the game could be postponed. Despite the grey skies it had been relatively dry, so this news was greeted with stunned concern. By the time we arrived at Charlton station, there was news of a second pitch inspection at 2.15pm.
The walk from the station to the Valley was relatively short and the location of the Away stand meant that we had a street to ourselves as we approached the ground. We were stood outside the stand waiting patiently for the news. The turnstiles were kept shut until just before 2.30pm when we were advised the game would proceed, but with a delayed kick off at 3.30pm.
I headed straight to my seat through very dated man operated turnstiles. The computer operated turnstiles no where to be seen. I got to my seat and was presented with the ever familiar sighting of minimal leg room. It was a good job I was on the back row, I was never going to stay sat on this seat. I started talking to a father and son from Anglesey in Wales and before we knew it kick off was upon us.
The pitch was showing some obvious signs of surface water and it quickly became apparent that the field was going to cause some trouble. The opening exchanges were disjointed and the ball was in the air and out of play more than it was in. It was a surprise that we managed to carve out a decent opening within 20 minutes where Dexter Blackstock knocked the ball down to Ross McCormack to steer past from close range to give us the lead. The remainder of the first half petered out into a scrappy affair and in typical Leeds fashion we conceded through sloppy defending. The goal itself was a fantastic finish, but our inability to clear the ball properly led to it. We were fortunate to go into the break level as another Charlton effort was cleared off the line. What was to follow in the second half couldn’t have been predicted as the teams left the field, the home team buoyed by their late surge.
The second half started with a disheartening pump into the air and out from the kick off. We were either trying to use the wind or were being plain lazy. What then happened was a master stroke as from their throw in, Danny Pugh won the ball and was brought down as he strode into the area, a penalty was awarded. Step up Ross McCormack who calmly slammed the ball centrally into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
Leeds had chances and as the next twenty minutes passed we were starting to hit them on the break as they pushed forwards. Once again as we were looking the most likely to strike again, slack defending saw Pearce and Lees beaten twice by the same player. A simple knock back saw Kenny beaten and we were back to 2-2.
Once again just as Charlton appeared to have the ascendency, Leeds broke clear and a delightful volley from close range saw Ross McCormack claim his hat trick. He ran down to the opposite end where me and the other 3,300 Leeds fans were and celebrated his first professional hat trick. As the game entered injury time a foul on Rudy Austin presented us with a free kick to the right of the goal and Ross McCormack picked out the top corner to claim 3 points and his fourth goal of the game. As the whistle was blown we were on fine voice celebrating the 4-2 win and 3 vitally important points.